December 14, 2007

Best site to identify commuting costs & hassles, in good weather & bad?

Earlier today, Bryan Person launched a wiki called Awful Commutes.  Right now, it seems to be focused on collecting stories from yesterday's snow emergency in Boston which unexpectedly turned commuting into winter sport.  No need to limit the wiki to accounts of those 5 and 6 hour marathons.  Three years ago, I thought about moving to Lowell, MA but decided to stay in Cambridge because I could walk to so many important places in my life. My understanding is that Walkscore.com helps potential homebuyers identify the most "walkable communities."

Not everyone has the option to live in a walkable community, hence the need for a decision-making tool that helps home buyers evaluate communities -- and specific listings -- based on their household's commuting needs.  Does such a tool or site already exist? If so, what's the best one to use to assess the cost of commuting in Greater Boston, and hassles factors on alternative routes?  Do "best of breed" commuting sites already include wikis?  If not, hope Awfulcommute.pbwiki.com becomes the commuting equivalent of RottenNeighbor.com, at least here in Boston.  I'd certainly recommend that kind of interactive tool to The Real Estate Cafe's 'do-it-yourself" home buyers.

If Bryan's wiki continues to focus on winter commutes, wouldn't it be fun to ask readers who are old enough to contribute memories of the Blizzard of '78? Maybe some can offer first person (no pun intended Bryan) accounts of their commutes yesterday and 30 years ago.  Is anyone already planning something to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Blizzard of '78 in Boston next year?  (I lived in Montreal at the time of the storm, but was amazed by the size of the snow drifts when I visited two weeks later. Nothing like today's relatively quick meltdown.)

02:12 PM in Defensive Homebuying, Do-it-yourself, Extreme Househunting, In the News, Mapping, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2007

Will homebuyers create their own "Twitter posses"?

Powerofus_twitterposses Thanks to PBS.org's Idea Lab for introducing me to the phrase, "Twitter posse."  Their vision of reporters asking questions via Twitter reminds me of Real Estate Cafe blog posts about "home buyers turned embedded real estate reporters."  Three years ago, February 11, 2005, we said:

"...our goal is to help seed a new generation of "embedded real estate reporters" or citizen journalists."

A more pointed question, "Will mobloggers pop the real estate bubble?" followed on April 17, 2005, four months before the housing market peaked in Massachusetts and a year before we invited bubble bloggers and citizen journalists to contribute to our Real Estate Bubble Map.

We've only begun to scratch the surface of potential uses for Twitter in real estate, so why limit brainstorming about Twitter Posses to reporters?  Just substitute the word "home buyer" for reporter in the original Idea Lab post and you'll see that "homebuyer posses," "househunting posses," or "neighborhood posses" could become commonplace:

A potential home buyer could enlist a dozen or two dozen passionate, driven home buyers to serve as a kind of Twitter posse. Whenever she was about to tackle a big story or difficult interview, the home buyer could begin a mobile dialogue with fellow home buyers.

What I like about the concept: It brings a much-needed air of transparency to the house hunting process.  It expands the home buyer's field of vision.

Combine that with interactive mapping, or add Twitter posts to our Real Estate Bubble Map, and consumers could create a powerful new way to share market insights by typing 140 character messages into their smart phones as they tour open houses, drive through new neighborhoods, etc.

Any home buyers or sellers in Boston or elsewhere already using Twitter?  Any real estate professionals, particularly buyer agents, already organizing "househunting posses"?  (Any developers want to work on the idea?)  Post examples below, or @realestatecafe on Twitter.  You can follow our latest Tweets on our blog, or http://twitter.com/realestatecafe

10:33 AM in "We" companies, Bubble map, Extreme Househunting, Mapping, Moblogging in Real Estate, Real Estate Blogs: Best Practices, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Social Networking, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2007

Are paper files & walk-in real estate offices obsolete?

Recafe_1995 Twelve years ago, The Real Estate Cafe was founded as a walk-in, internet-based, housing information center -- to our knowledge, the first in the country (see story below.)  Over the next five years, 1995-2000, we amassed a mountain of paper files, some in the 1,200 square foot body of the cafe and more in the basement.   

Even though The Real Estate Cafe has operated virtually in recent years, we continue to amass mountains of paper.  About 20 boxes of paper, mostly marketing materials from recent real estate conventions and newspaper articles, are ready to sorted, filed, or tossed today.  Approximately 50 files boxes are already in deep storage.  While we rarely access paper documents in "active" file cabinets, we constantly update digital files on The Real Estate Cafe's intranet.

So our question is three-fold:

1.  Is paper filing obsolete?

2.  Are walk-in real estate offices obsolete?

3.  If real estate brokerages reorganized to operate virtually, would savings be passed onto real estate consumers, both buyers and sellers, in the form of lower commissions, rebates, or fee-for-service business models like The Real Estate Cafe?

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Buying A La Carte
Bill Wendel's Latest Venture, The Real Estate Cafe, Aims To Be The Buyer's 'guardian Angel'

Source: Boston Globe | Date: Sep 10, 1995 | By: Mary Sit, Globe Staff

...Called The Real Estate Cafe, it is a self-service information...[reducing] costs by having consumers do some of the work themselves.

09:07 AM in Change Agents, Commission Reform, Fee-for-service, Inside The Real Estate Cafe, Savings & Rebates, Tech Trends, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 31, 2007

April Fool's Day 2007: Real Estate Parodies & Predictions

Aprilfoolpredictions2007 Yesterday, a leading real estate technology news service published it's Top 10 predictions on the future of real estate blogging.  Preliminary comments agree with Prediction #5:

The blogging community will give voice to those in the industry who previously didn't have one -- making them a force to be reckoned with. This has already happened, but will grow stronger this year. The open dialog will spark change the industry has never before seen.

What role will real estate consumer will play in that revolution, and what are the most effective ways to get homebuyers and sellers involved?  Humor -- the kind that has turned political commentary into infotainment -- could be an effective way to attract and engage real estate consumers. So a year after launching our original menu of wikis, which was so serious that it is still password-protected, The Real Estate Cafe's newest wiki has a more light-hearted goal: 

Prediction #11:  Real estate bloggers and zillions of homebuyers and sellers will pool their wits on April Fool's Day to publish a parody of the current housing market and real estate practices.

Hopefully, like satirical TV programs, there will be some serious content between the laughs.  Better still, maybe ordinary home buyers and sellers, turned "radical consumers advocates," will launch some lasting reforms; insuring they have the last laugh.  Who says real estate professionals, homebuyers, and sellers don't have a sense of humor?  Anyone reading the paper knows that housing prices are a joke.  What else about the current housing market or real estate practices makes you laugh (or drives you crazy)?

Last year, our April Fool's Day post asked:  Is designated agency an April Fool's Day joke?  Use this "April fool's real estate" keyword search on Google to see what others have done in the past.

02:56 AM in "We" companies, Humor, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2006

Add properties to bubble map before "Un-conference"

Pbwiki_bubblemap Exactly one year ago today, the Real Estate Cafe participated in a radio broadcast entitled, "The Beginning of the End of the Bubble" which featured some of our recorded interviews.  Today, we celebrated that anniversary with more good news:  the leading real estate technology news service featured our real estate bubble maps as an example of "Real Estate 2.0."  Our interactive maps are getting attention because they allow users to post their own examples of a falling prices, particularly homes selling for below assessed value in Greater Boston.  We created the bubble maps because news reports, including one this evening, continue to point to modest declines in median prices as evidence of a "soft landing for the housing market.

If you share our belief that median prices are masking deep discounts on many properties, we invite you to add properties to document what's really happening at the street level.  Here's an example of what one homeowner has already done, plus a description of our "Tipping Policy": commission credits for paying clients who post properties to our map.

RealEstateBubbleMap.com, an experimental wiki authorized users can edit, will be presented as a case study Monday at an Un-Conference on Citizen Journalism at Harvard.  Before then, we invite you to post additional properties to the Boston bubble map if you live locally, or create your own local bubble map if you live in one of the 71 "extremely overvalued" housing markets nationwide. If there is interest, we'll host a Bubble Hour chat or conference call before, during, or after the presentation Monday for local clients, or real estate bubble bloggers and their readers nationwide.  Email us at RECafe@mac.com if you would like to participate.

10:50 PM in Bubble map, Market trends, Real Estate Blogs: Best Practices, Real Estate Bubble, Tech Trends, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2006

Using wikis to empower "do-it-yourself" homebuyers & sellers

Recafe_wikimenu_1"When it becomes time to make ideas real, wiki lets us keep playing while we work. Wiki is how we turn discussion into documentation, rap-session into planning-session, and meeting into collaboration--online."
James Carlson Director, Bucketworks

Exciting to read that the innovative folks at RainCityGuide in Seattle, one of the best real estate blogs in the nation, are also experimenting with wikis; but it appears we may be approaching the collaborative power of wikis from different starting points.  While RainCityGuide will be looking to fellow real estate professionals to collaborate on content, The Real Estate Cafe is looking to real estate consumers, both homebuyers and sellers.

On and off over six months, The Real Estate Cafe has been quietly building a "menu of wikis" with four to five main areas.  A snapshot of the current version of our main page, which is still password-protected, is shown above (click on image for larger view) or read text on the link below.  If you'd like in see where we're headed or explore collaborations, or just selling your own home "for sale by owner" in Massachusetts and want to learn more about the steps in the process -- wiki-style, email RECafe@mac.com.

If you're wildly excited about wikis, maybe we'll see you here in Cambridge, Massachusetts for WikiMania 2006.  Today (March 30, 2006) is the deadline for submitting a proposal to host a workshop or tutorial at this year's Wikimania.

Maybe RainCityGuide and The Real Estate Cafe (and potentially others?) can collaborate on a workshop comparing how real estate professionals and consumers on both coasts use wikis to meet their real estate needs.  Should be interesting to watch if this particular opportunity is really ahead of it's time as Dustin at RainCityGuide speculates:

"Another idea I have is almost definitely ahead-of-its-time, but could be interesting, is that anyone selling a home is free to create a webpage that describes their home on the.raincityguide.com. It will cost you nothing but time, and if you are creative enough, it might get you some interesting publicity."

MENU OF WIKIS (preview of http://www.realestatecafe.com/wiki/, currently password protected)

1. FSBOWIKI
FSBOSupportGroup.com members, let's create a FSBO resource center and coauthor a step-by-step knowledge-base and so thousands of people selling their own homes "for sale by owner" in Massachusetts can save money and save lives.

Steps in the "For Sale by Owner" process

2. REAL ESTATE CONSUMER BILL OF RIGHTS
Use this forum to continue drafting Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights;

3. INTELLIGENT REDESIGN
Invite participants in the yearlong Intelligent REdesign series to to use these resources or to add to them as they prepare their own proposals;

4. REAL ESTATE CONSUMER COMPLAINTS
Develop a comprehensive knowledge-base documenting anti-competitive policies and business practices in Massachusetts and across the country;

ARCHIVE

COLLABORATING ON TESTIMONY FOR DOJ / FTC HEARING
The goal of this Wiki section of the wiki was originally to collaborate on testimony for the DOJ / FTC hearing in October 2006. Now, it's ongoing goal is to invite real estate consumer to join real estate consumer advocates and real estate change agents from around the country to inform the government's ongoing legal proceeding against DOJ / FTC the real estate industry.

11:52 PM in "We" companies, Change Agents, Do-it-yourself, Inside The Real Estate Cafe, Real Estate Blogs: Best Practices, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Social Networking, Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 17, 2005

Our apologies for recent technical difficulties

Please check back soon for missing graphics and delayed posts. 

09:40 AM in Writing tools | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack